Bush to data: "La la la la la, I can't hear you"
Let's quit the debate about whether greenhouse gases are caused by mankind or by natural causes; let's just focus on technologies that deal with the issueGlobal climate change is caused by human activities. There's no debate about it. There hasn't been for years.
And it matters. If it's happening because of natural processes, maybe we should just ride it out. But if it's our fault, it's our responsibility, and it's time to take action.
Past time. When Kyoto was negotiated in 1997, it would have required the developed world to cut its emissions levels to several percentage points below their 1990 levels. In 1998, when the US signed the treaty, we were 11% over our 1990 level, and 18% over our target level. At that point, we had 12 years to effect that reduction.
Now, we are 24% above the target level, and would have only 4 years to reduce emissions. The time we've wasted on political squabbles is time when atmospheric carbon dioxide has risen 3%, an increase which would take decades to drop.
In looking at the government's emissions inventory of carbon production by source, we find that electrical generation accounts for a third of our greenhouse gas emissions, and has risen 27% in that time. Transportation accounts for 27.6% of emissions, and has increased 29% since 1990. Industrial and agricultural production are constant or declining over the same time frame.
Digging into that data, we find that passenger vehicles emitted 2.6% more carbon in 2004 than in 1990, but "light-duty trucks," including SUVs, emitted 67% more. Why would this happen? Because SUV sales took off, and while cars are governed by the CAFE fuel economy standards, while the light duty trucks aren't. And while the President chose to praise his energy bill, that bill didn't raise fuel economy standards, nor did it include any mechanism for raising fuel economy. That alone would do tremendous amounts to limit growth in emissions, or even to cut those emissions.
New nuclear plants are a fine idea, but will take years to bring online, and won't necessarily do a lot to make things better.
Electrical generation has increased 24% since 1993, while vehicle miles traveled has only risen by 7.3% since 1991, and the number of vehicles have only gone up by 4.1%. Controlling electrical demand and improving electrical efficiency will help control the growth in carbon release, but won't help us cut production. Controlling vehicle production, we'll be able to actually reduce demand in the short term.
It's nice to see Gregg Easterbrook, Michael Shermer and George Bush coming around on climate change, but it'd be nicer to see them actually pushing for action.